By Malam Farouk U. Muhammed, mni
This little piece is about the above subject. However, given the Nigerian political environment, it would be proper to contextualize the supportive role the incoming Tinubu/Shettima Administration and indeed the All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership should play. Already, the National Assembly (NASS) leadership tussles are becoming messy and the Tinubu/Shettima Government which wants to “hit the ground running” must avoid starting off with a factionalized and uncooperative NASS leadership.
Undoubtedly, the President-elect has over the decades, established himself as a visionary, focused, committed, patriotic and relatively fair-minded political icon with incredible public relations and human capital development abilities. While deploying these positive attributes and his political wisdom, the President-elect should in collaboration with the APC Leadership, allow and support the NASS to elect its leaders. Such consideration would obviate the schisms and attendant distractions that may emanate as a consequence of imposition of a leadership that the legislators-elect do not support. It bears recalling that prior to the APC Presidential Primary, the contest seemed open until some Northern Governors insisted that in the interest of equity and fairness, the Party’s Presidential Ticket should be zoned to Southern Nigeria.
Eventually, the Jagaba of Borgu won the ticket by a landslide and went on to win the Presidential election to become the President-elect. Reflecting on that scenario, many Nigerians believe that at the end of the day, the President-elect will do the right thing by supporting NASS to elect its leaders. Now, to the subject of this little article.
DRAINING THE SWAMP
The eyes of Nigerians are more on the Senate because it is the legislative arm that has the constitutional power of approving or rejecting the Nigerian President’s key nominees like ministers, ambassadors and heads of certain statutory agencies including EFCC, INEC and others. Nigerians expect the incoming President to “drain the swamp” by dissolving the boards of scores of federal agencies including statutory boards whose heads had their respective tenures renewed recently. The new President should bring in mostly new hands as Chairmen and Board Members that would be loyal and key into his programmes of rekindling the hopes and aspirations of all Nigerians. Which is why the incoming President will need a Senate President who though should not be a rubber stamp, but will be guiding the Senate to be playing very positive roles in the best interest of the country.
NEXT SENATE PRESIDENT
Just like happened prior to the APC Presidential Primary, about 10 returning and new Senators-elect from five geo-political zones (excluding the South-West) had indicated interested to contest for the position of President of the 10th Senate. If the contest was to be left wide open, it can be safely argued that for obvious reasons, Ranking Senator Barau Jibrin (North West) will become the President of the 10th Senate. Although the matter has not been resolved, it seems the Senate President Seat will likely be zoned to the South. In that case, the South-East will gain the upper hand as most Senators-elect believe that in the interest of equity and fairness, a southern Christian Senator should become the next Senate President. They reportedly add that all factors considered, majority of them prefer Senator Orji Uzor Kalu over any other contestant from the South. But is Senator Kalu up to the task and how are his capabilities, experience, qualification, team and leadership spirit, mutual respect with Senator colleagues and so on?
WHO REALLY IS OUK?
Orji Uzor Kalu (OUK), CON, was born on 21 April, 1960 in Igbere, Abia State, Nigeria. Among his many traditional titles from around Nigeria, is that of ‘Danbaiwan Hausa of Daura. He is an astute politician, successful private sector guru, entrepreneur per excellence, high-level national and international investor and publisher. In 2019, he was elected APC Senator for Abia North Senatorial District, was re-elected in 2023 and is Chief Whip of the current 9th Senate.
OUK is a very experienced and respected politician and was elected for two consecutive terms as Governor of Abia State. A high profile Member of the ruling APC and Ranking Senator, he has full grasp of the twists and turns of Nigerian politics and has mastered the slippery slope of the country’s political environment.
OUK attended the very famous and highly regarded Barewa College, Zaria–which has produced several Nigerian Heads of State and many other leaders from around the country. He studied Political Science at University of Maiduguri, Borno State and obtained a B.A. (Political Science) from Abia State University. Also, he attended the world class Ivy League institution, Harvard University, USA, where he obtained a Certificate in Business Administration.
CAREER (WORK EXPERIENCE)
Senator Kalu’s illustrious career in both the public and private sectors include : Chairman of Borno State Water Board in North-East Geo-Political Zone. Later, he established SLOK Holdings, a conglomerate that consisted of successful companies like SLOK Nigeria Ltd, SLOK United Kingdom Ltd, Ojialex Furniture Co. Ltd, Adamawa Publishers Ltd, SLOK Vegetable Oil Ltd, SLOK Paper Factory Ltd and SLOK United States Incorporated. Others are SLOK Ghana, Togo, Guinea, Benin Republic, South Africa, Liberia, Botswana and SLOK Korea Ltd, Supreme Oil Ltd, SLOK Airlines Ltd, Sun Publishing Ltd. New Telegraph Newspaper and First International Bank Ltd.
Senator Kalu remains a de-tribalized builder and sustainer of bridges across Nigeria. Apart from Abia State, any part of Nigeria is home to Orji Uzor Kalu. Just as he does across Nigeria, OUK works across the Isle in the Senate to promote understanding, peace, development and growth of Nigeria, anchored on mutual respect. Consequently, as a Ranking Senator and Senate Chief Whip, OUK enjoys the respect of his colleagues in the Red Chamber.
As per the records, since he became Senate Chief Whip, all Bills he had coordinated were passed and eventually became laws. Senator Kalu remains passionate about promoting national peace and unity and supporting the empowerment of Nigerian youth and women.
LOCAL & INTERNATIONAL RESPECT
Senator Kalu is very well regarded both locally and internationally. He leverages his high-level international contacts in Africa, Asia, the USA Senate and other key organs of government, the U.K. and many other countries in Europe, all in the best interest of Nigeria and Nigerians.
In appreciation of his astounding achievements in many areas of human endeavour, numerous national and international bodies have bestowed OUK with a variety of honours. A few examples are : Commander of the Order of the Niger; The National Merit Award by the Federal Government of Nigeria; Honourary Doctor of Philosophy by University of Maiduguri and Honourary Doctor of Philosophy by Abia State University. Others are: Industrialist of the Year by Nigeria Chamber of Commerce; Humanitarian Award by University of Nsukka Humanitarian Club; Volunteer Award by the International Association of Volunteers; European Union Special Award in Brussels, Belgium; The Leon Sullivan Award by the World Bank, Washington DC, USA and ‘Danbaiwan Hausa (gifted son of Hausa Kingdom) by HRH Emir of Daura, Katsina State, Nigeria.
EQUITY, ACCOMMODATION & JUSTICE
It is worth emphasizing that the incoming NASS should be allowed to sort out its leadership positions. All things being equal, the over-riding consideration in electing OUK as the next President of the Senate should not be the number of votes the South-East gave to the Tinubu/Shettima Ticket. Supporting OUK could potentially dowse tension in the South-East and may even soften the path toward getting significant votes for APC in future elections.
It is noteworthy that incumbent President Buhari was equally not supported by the South-East, yet in the spirit of accommodation, he completed the vital Second Niger Bridge which had been abandoned for about forty years, and so on.
Thus, particularly regarding the 10th Senate, in the interest of equity, fairness, justice, accommodation and giving a sense of belonging to the South-East, all APC Senators-elect and other stakeholders will do well to elect Ranking Senator and Chief Whip of the current Senate, Orji Uzor Kalu as the next Senate President with highly experienced, highly educated and highly regarded Ranking Senator Barau Jibrin (North West) as Deputy Senate President. Such a solid combination will usher in a 10th Senate that will be a win-win for the Tinubu/Shettima Administration, with Nigerians and Nigeria as the main beneficiaries.
BEST AMONG EQUALS
OUK possesses great wealth of experience anchored on commendable track record of achievements in the private and public sectors. He has appreciable Public Relations talents which he deploys at national and international levels.
An astute team player, as Senate President, OUK will be a pillar of support for the Tinubu/Shettima Administration.
If elected Senate President, Orji Uzor Kalu has the capacity to rally the 10th Senate in cooperation with the House of Reps, to support the Tinubu/Shettima Government to simultaneously “hit the ground running” in many critical areas of Nigeria’s socio-economic development and growth and technological endeavours. Accordingly, OUK is the best among equals to be the President of the up-coming Senate.
(Malam Farouk U. Muhammed writes from Kano, Nigeria)